Southwest Michigan celebrates small businesses

Published 1:22 pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

Provided photo

St. Joseph features several small businesses who contribute to the local economy and will be celebrated on Small Business Saturday. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

The day after Thanks-giving has long been known as “Black Friday,” the day that retailers make their big profits for the year by offering discounts to throngs of shoppers. And then, of course, there is “Cyber Monday,” a day known since 2005 as one on which savvy shoppers can expect to find great deals at online retailers.

Over the past three years, a new idea has grown in popularity: Small Business Saturday. This day, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is one on which local merchants hope that shoppers will make a point to frequent their businesses.

“Studies have shown that, when you shop at a small business, all of your money stays locally, while only 47 cents of every dollar stays locally when you shop at a big box retailer,” said Tyanna Weller, president of the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce.

Also known as “Shop Small Saturday” or “Shop Local Saturday,” the idea of promoting small local retailers on this particular day was first promoted heavily by American Express credit card company for Nov. 27, 2010. Since then, they have promoted the idea of shopping locally via television commercials and by offering information packets to local merchants via their website.

In 2011, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 320, officially designating Nov. 26, 2011 as Small Business Saturday in order to “support efforts to encourage consumers to shop locally; and to increase awareness of the value of locally owned small businesses.”

That value is hard to over-estimate. Senate Resolution 320 notes that “small businesses employ half of the employees in the private sector in the United States…[and] generate 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs annually.”

So far, Small Business Saturday appears to have been a big success.

American Express estimates that consumers spent $5.5 billion at locally-owned retailers on Small Business Saturday in 2012. That translates into more money for each community.

This year, several chambers of commerce in Southwest Michigan are planning special promotions, as are individual business owners. Niles, Dowagiac and St. Joseph all have something special going on, as do many of the other communities. Visiting the website of your local chamber of commerce is a good way to find out what might be happening in other towns in the region.


“We all need to try to help keep as much money in Niles as we can,” Weller said.

To that end, Niles merchants are joining together to hold the Third Annual Niles Shopping Party. As with previous years, merchants will be featuring special deals and holding a raffle for shoppers. A non-perishable food item is all that shoppers must bring in order to register to win a flat-screen TV, courtesy of the Niles Radio Shack. The food donations will benefit the Ferry Street Resource Center.

Some of the participating merchants in Niles include Bella’s Gifts & Memories, Moore Theaters, Niles Styles, Main Street Antique Mall, Pizza Transit, The Truck Store, Four Flags Antique Mall and Olfactory Hue Bistro. A Holiday Bazaar will also be hosted at The Bell Building, 305 Sycamore St., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.


The Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce has planned a series of three Christmas events.

Dowagiac Small Business Saturday will be the second of the events, with the annual Christmas Open House Weekend (Nov. 22-24) being the first, and the Candle-light Christmas Parade (Dec. 6) being the third. Attending the open house weekend will provide shoppers with the opportunity to win one of 11 $50 universal Dowagiac gift cards.

Shoppers can register for the gift-card drawing at Country Florist, Dowagiac Vacuum Center, Glamour Plus, The Hairitage, Imperial Furniture, The Marshall Shoppe, Southwest-ern Michigan College bookstore, The Tipsy Gypsy, Vincent J. Jewelers and Wounded Minnow Saloon, along with Ham-sters and its companion shop, Somewhere in Time. Winners will be drawn Monday, Nov. 25. Shoppers can then use the cards to purchase items in stores all over Dowagiac before Christmas, including on Small Business Saturday.

“Small Business Saturday is a day to do our part for those businesses that do so much for our community,” said Vickie Phillipson, director of the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority.

Just a few of the merchants that will be offering special deals and promotions on Nov. 30 include The Marshall Shoppe, Vincent J. Jewelers and Tipsy Gypsy.

St. Joseph

While not focusing specifically on Small Business Saturday, “St. Joseph Today plans to promote holiday shopping at downtown retail locations all season long,” said Jill Stone, executive director of St. Joseph Today.

This will include the majority of State Street merchants offering extended holiday shopping hours, remaining open until at least 8 p.m. for shoppers’ convenience.

The lack of a planned multi-store event in St. Joseph on Nov. 30 does not mean there won’t be deals to be found. For example, “The Candlestick Maker [408 State St.] will be offering 12 percent off all items in the store, as well as giving away a free t-shirt with all purchases (while they last),” said Judi Benninghoff, owner of the store.

A few doors down, Lynne Christiano, owner of Purely Michigan, 406 State St., will be offering “taste testing of our food products that day,” she said. Other stores that will offer specials include G&M Variety, Perennial Accents and the Olive Cart.

Local merchants and leaders in the business community hope residents will consider shopping locally this post-Thanksgiving weekend.

“Small businesses like those on State Street in St. Joseph are driving the American economy,” said Christiano, whose store specializes in Michigan-made products. “They employ local people, and the money that is made here stays here. It helps us give back to our community.”